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Renault Samsung Motors is working on an all-electric version of its mid-sized SM3 sedan for launch next year with replaceable batteries that can be exchanged at drive-in facilities.

The Korean unit of the French carmaker has the goal of launching 250 “zero-emission” vehicles by December 2012 to show its commitment in clean energy vehicles.

A company spokesman said Samsung’s Busan plant will mass-produce all-electric vehicles and added that the ‘quick drop’ battery change options had been chosen to ease concerns about charge times.

On a full charge the electric SM3 will be able to travel up to 160km (100 miles), the company said. It will be equipped with a 250kg lithium-ion battery which can be removed through a fully automated system at a battery-replacement station in less than 90 seconds.

The company plans to place the battery pack directly behind the rear seats rather than beneath the car’s floor, extending the rear of the electric model by 13cm.

Renault Samsung plans to produce 13,000 SM3 ZEs at its Busan plant up to 2015.

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By GlobalData

A major challenge for the carmaker is the lack of infrastructure in South Korea which needs state support to establish. The Ministry of Knowledge Economy earlier this month said it would spend about KRW70bn (US$65m) on EV development by 2014, including building electric charging stations.

The Korean Agency for Technology and Standards has said it wil come up with three industrial standards for EV charging involving general requirements for charging systems, such as cable, plug and inlet standards, but it has not said whether battery replacement stations will be included.

The battery swap technology has been developed by the Renault-Nissan alliance, which hopes to create a mass market for both a new electric motor technology and a new logistical structure to make power supply easier than ever. The Alliance predicts EVs will account for 10% of the auto market by 2020.